The jackets of power

In this country, as in many others, people believe that their jackets possess magical powers. Yes, all you have to do is deposit your jacket (or bag) on a seat in a public place and it becomes yours. All other rights and privileges are off – the jacket simply closes the deal.


Figure 1: 15% of my life

This of course is utter bollox, and it is time we all stood up to it. We all know the stories about the Germans at the summer resort, getting up at 5 am to deposit their towels on the sun-chairs, and getting angry if anybody challenges their dominance. A few days ago, however, I saw the process in action a little closer to home.

Yes, M and me were at Copocobana for Sunday breakfast. We stood in a queue of 10 people while waiting to order, and had our eye on a nice sofa seat, which was empty. We discussed placing M there to “keep” the seat but decided it was unfair, and so continued to stand.

Then some guy way back in the queue dashed out, placed his jacket and bag on the desirable sofa seat and scuttled back to his position in the line.

Now this was just too much to bear, so when M and me had gotten our food, we went directly for the empty sofa, shoved the guy’s bag and jacket in the corner and sat ourselves down.

The room went quite. An unspoken law had been shattered, and now the fate of civilised society was hanging in the balance. The guy gave us a look nasty enough to scorch paint, but we stuck fast to our places. After ten minutes, just before he reached the head of the queue, he came over in a huff and grabbed his jacket and bag.

But I was ready for him. I said, in English, and with a bright smile: “Hey, you can share the table with us, there’s lots of room”. He was slightly thrown off balance but managed to mumble: “I had actually reserved TWO of these seats, and now I’m moving somewhere else. Hmmph!”

So tell me – where it is written that items of clothing can be used to “reserve” places? Is it in the UN convention for human rights? And how does the law actually work? Is there a minimum size the reserving object can be? Must there be one object per reserved place? How long does the “reservation” hold for? If the object slides onto the floor, what happens then?

This might just be a “social convention” but there is no fucking way that I will support a “rule” or “convention” that is downright stupid, and I don’t care how many nasty looks I collect. I have enough real laws and rules to worry about and if I see another bollox “reserve” something that I am in line for, I will seize the object just out of principle, even if I don’t want it.

/ paddy

20 thoughts on “The jackets of power

  1. But were you the hero or the villain? Maybe the room was rooting for you because you were calling him on his unreasonable behaviour. You seem to think that the room was rooting for him because you had invaded his sacred space.

    Interesting question.

    I’m for you. One of the things which makes crowded cafes more crowded is people blagging seats which would otherwise be empty while they queue. There’s got to be a tipping point in there somewhere.

    Personally, I so loathe queuing for food that I walk past anywhere with a line.


  2. Not sure I would have dared to do that. I’m a wuss and I avoid any form of confrontation. Very brave Paddy. But absolutely right to do it. Good for you.

  3. Intressant! Jag trodde den oskrivna regeln var att på väldigt fulla ställen med långa köer; lunchkrogar eller kaféer, så markerar man inte platser med kläder. Man räknar med att rotationen är rätt så snabb ändå. Rätt gjort av er alltså!

    I höstas markerade vi platser på ett utekafé, en kompis och jag. När vi kom ut satt två damer vid bordet och våra saker låg på marken. “Hade ni tänkt sitta här?” Ja, sa vi surt, men den ena damen hade käpp och det är ju inte helt ok att markera ett utebord så vi satte oss vid ett tomt bord som dessvärre inte var under tak. Det började regna så vi fikade snabbt och gick. Då reste sig även damerna och sa “vi skulle inte fika utan bara sitta och vila en stund!” Önskar kanske att t ex du varit där då Paddy och sagt något ONT! (Händelsen inträffade i Göteborg, förstås!)

  4. Aphra: Lucky for you that you live in a country with good food – in Sweden we can’t afford to be so fussy, so it’s the queue or nothing…

    Earthpal: All it takes is courage, resolve and a good double brandy

    Annaa: Cool, evil old ladies! That’s the problem with unwritten rules – everybody just makes up their own version. Throwing somebodies jacket on the ground, however, is NOT ok. Sitting on it, though, would be allowed…

  5. Paddy, I live in the UK. You’ve been Abroad too long if you think we have good food. And you forget, I’ve lived in Sweden too. No. I really do hate queuing for food. It’s not the 30s, this is not the dustbowl, the restaurant is not a soup kitchen.


  6. ” English food has no equal when it comes to crappiness”. Your comment shows that you have not visited England for a VERY long time.

  7. I’d expect people owning and running eateries not to like the magic jacket custom much. It slows down throughput on the asses-in-seats level. At my part-time office job, though, the ladies of a certain age that I work with always invoke power of jacket at the lunch place.

  8. Good post Pat. And a good result. Queuing is such a waste of time in any situation – traffic, waiting to get on an airplane, to get inside somewhere ‘exclusive’. We should all time it better or make everything a lot bigger.
    And what is it about ‘ladies of a certain age’? They often think it is their right to ignore queues or manners or any sort of social convention unless it is being applied in their favour. Just because you are old(er) and female does not give you automatic privilege. We are all equal these days.

  9. Lillan: It wasn’t me – Aphra Behn started it! And it’s true, I have not been there for ages, so I am just reporting what people tell me.

    Tim: Dunno…just search on Google Images for a topic and swipe the pic. Search for “queue”.

    Everybody else: Old ladies – the real enemy! Those old people with bad hearing just PRETEND to not hear, so they can do what they want. But I refuse to back down, and will argue them to a standstill (actually easy in Sweden as the average person is terrified of public conflict).

  10. Oh we got into such trouble in Oslo once because we didn’t realise that a single glove left on a table meant “reserved by the shrivelled up old bat queueing for meatballs with her demented crony”. Honestly, we just thought someone had forgotten a glove.

  11. Blackout: Indeed!

    csrster: That’s just my point, it DOESN’T mean anything, only in their sick and twisted minds. Show me a legal document outlining the actual regulations and I will respect abandoned items of clothing; otherwise they can just piss the fuck off.

  12. It’s weeing on lamp-posts, isn’t it? Have you noticed while a dog does that he’s always checking out to see what other dogs are around and making sure that his wee is super-stinky so that everyone knows it’s HIS lamp-post.

    I’m looking forward to being of a certain age, myself. I’ll be able to get away with things I’ve not been able to get away since I was two.


  13. Jamen det är ju bara för att det är så j-a surt att köa i en halvtimme för att sen få äta/fika stående utan bord för att ingen av de som sitter ner rört sig ur fläcken när man köat klart, och alla bord alltså är upptagna.
    Därför “bokar” man platser. Om alla gjorde det så skulle det inte vara något problem, eller hur? Då ser man den långa kön när man kommer in, kollar av platser i lokalen, inga lediga, nähä, alltså går man vidare. Och slipper köa. Eller, om det finns lediga, så “bokar” man plats, slipper stå med ytterkläderna på sig inomhus och slipper stå och vara nervös för att inte få någon sittplats när man köpt sitt dyra fika.
    Vi behöver nog fler bra caféer helt enkelt (hur nu det är möjligt).

  14. Karin – Exactly! “det är ju bara för att det är så j-a surt att köa i en halvtimme för att sen få äta/fika stående utan bord”. That’s my point! I do NOT want to queue for 20 minutes for an empty café and then have some bollox charge out from the end of the queue and take up the place I have been waiting for!

    The queue is the queue, and it’s for both the food and the seats. Bring a friend to keep the place, that’s OK – but no jackets! I will never give in to the Swedish jacket law! NEVER!

  15. There seems to be a similar “law” in England- only one must have a person sitting with the bag and giving angry glares to anyone that comes near.

    I did recently see a similar thing in a busy Starbucks in the centre of London- someone had left a hat on one of the nicest seats in the place, right by the window. A sweet, young, tourist American couple came along and moved the hat. When the man came back to his seat, he told them the seat was reserved, and they just looked confused and moved, as though he did have a right to be there.

    A hat? I wouldn’t sit where there was a bag, but a jacket or a hat, I consider to just be lost property in my desired space.

  16. andgreyskies: I am a bit more hard-core here – bag, hat, jacket, prosthetic limb…it’s all the same to me. In my world, the only thing that can “reserve” a place is a person. Or maybe one of those blow-up dolls…

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